Reading Maze For Book Reviews

Reading for the Young & Old


Oh my now this is a tome to be reckoned with!

Don’t start Shantaram unless you’re prepared to set aside several hours a day for a couple of weeks.

Once you’ve started you won’t want to put it down, so ideally take it on that beach holiday you have been dreading. You’ll barely notice the holiday as you’ll be in India in your mind, loving and hating the smells, the people, their hearts, and yet their extreme capacity for brutality.

This is essentially a crime novel, but laced with love, much on morality, travel, and understanding of a very different part of the world.

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Shantaram is fast, it’s funny, it’s shocking (it’s often that). It’s full on.

I recommend it to anyone who looks at the size of the book and doesn’t flinch. Don’t pick it up if a thousand pages daunts you.

And please don’t make my mistake of looking up the author Gregory David Roberts online, a glance at his photos that he chooses to show the world are enough to put you off for life, but that aside, his writing is superb, his love is real, and fook me, I do believe he is a very hard man!

I photographed the book on my bed as when I was reading it I couldn’t wait to sneak off for an early night and a read.

Five People You Meet In Heaven

If yo read Ian Macab then you probably won’t want to read Mitch Albom!

His best known book is Tuesdays With Morrie and this, The Five People You Meet In Heaven is of a similar nature. It looks at life and love and the influences people have on you, mostly influences that you don’t notice at the time, but which events bring home to you.

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The biggest influence on so many of us is our mother, and sure enough she is explored here, as well as the old man at the fairground and other characters.

It’s the sort of book that gets its claws into you and tugs away at your heart, leaving you thinking about the important relationships in your life, the ones that maybe you haven’t paid enough attention to, the ones that you ought to acknowledge.

Don’t be surprised if, having read this, you send a letter to someone you haven’t written to in years, to maybe say thank you to them, or to tell them you love them. I did.

It’s a shame that it’s influence on you wanes, but chances are it will carry on as a distant reminder of how it’s worth saying thank you a bit more often.

1984 – George Orwell

Read Orwell as a history lesson.

Read Orwell to help you look at the world you’re living in in a different, perhaps more critical way.

Read Orwell as an introduction to humanity at it’s worse, helping you to see what can go wrong, and to identify it in the most straightforward of circumstances.

But also read Orwell for the writing. Pared back, essential, without flowery unnecessities, with great observation, irony.

2013-03-11 11.33.341984 had many children fearing the worse would happen on that year, of course it came, it went, nothing changed, except the ability to watch over everything and everyone that Orwell wrote about so many decades before has come to be fact now, even if it was not really the case back a few decades ago.

For the real grit read Animal Farm, for a picture of the futility of struggle read his memories of fighting in the Spanish civil war, when you were as much at risk of being shot by your own people than you were of ever even encountering the right.

And if these get you hooked then use the BBC iPlayer to listen to some of the recent readings from books like Down and Out in Paris and London, or some of the plays based on Orwell’s life.

Man in a Room

I wrote recently about David Shrigley’s How Are You Feeling. I guess you could call that his first full length feature book, and all the better for being in hardback.

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Man in a Room is pretty much the antithesis of How Are You Feeling. It is small, very small in fact – sort of A7 ish, although not quite in the right proportions.

It is simply the story of a man in bed, his mouse, spider and cat, him feeling horny, calling a hooker, getting drunk.

That’s it. No more story than that, yet I have read it, often out loud sharing the pictures with friends, many many times. It is funny, daft and brilliant for it.

Who knows where you will find a copy. Mine was a birthday present nearly a decade ago. I keep it on the bedside for guests – they all read it and love it too.

Men’s File

Occasionally within the reviews of books that many of us in the office have read we’ll slip in mention of a favourite magazine. My contribution this time around is far from a literary beast, however it is heavy on its own particular style.

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Men’s File seems to be published pretty much at random. It seems like a couple of years since I spotted and snapped up the first edition, but then none appeared for such a long time I suspect that I have thrown it away and so ruining my chances of having a valuable collection when it begins its rise from cult to the floor of the mainstream.

Men’s File has evolved a lot since its first appearance. It was about as close to soft porn as the dedicated middle aged man of a certain style could get while still calling it artful photography, now its fashion focus has come to the fore and it’s less exciting as a consequence. Bring back the beautiful and the damn right weird posed beautifully just about wearing stunning clothing please.

Mens File isn’t for young blokes, and probably not for old ones either. I’m lucky in that I believe it was created for me!

How Are You Feeling?

I’ve tagged David Shrigley’s How Are You Feeling as both comedy and art. The latter is a very loose tag, but relevant, indeed he even has an exhibition over several floors in the Cornerhouse Gallery in Manchester at the moment, and it was that exhibition that led me to buy this bizarre but at times hilarious volume.

As art, it could be a while before children, students, are writing an essay on the work of David Shrigley, but who cares, because by then the man will be rich many times over from taking his strange and undoubtably funny work to the public for many years.

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I love his series on work called Modern Toss and How Are You Feeling follows a similar vein of madness – a typical page that I have just opened on to has a badly drawn picture of a plane and the line ” I find it hard to concentrate whilst I am preforming important tasks”. Genius – or maybe crap, depending on your point of view.

I actually think that his best medium is the cards. You don’t spend enough time with a card to get bored of it, whereas with a book you may well do.

I manage that be just taking little snapshots now and then rather than ceeding to the temptation to read from end to end.


Lovemarks, Kevin Roberts

If you care about building your brand then this book is not only essential reading, it’s inspirational too.

Kevin Roberts is something of an odd ball chief executive who will come out with all sorts of comments that you won’t like if you meet him, but his book, edited and refined no doubt by some of his business’s finest brains, is a great read.


It’ll tell you stories from around the world of businesses that have gone way beyond the normal behaviour expected of a brand, and many of them have achieved great success as a consequence.

This is the sort of brand book that anyone with their own business will enjoy, and despite it being quite dated now, its message is still bang on target. If you’re tight fisted and cut corners with horse meat then this isn’t for you – although it might help you see the errors of your ways. But if you are up for listening, learning, moving with the times and delivering the best possible service then you’ll feel encourage and vindicated by Lovemarks.

Roberts’ anecdotes¬†are often brilliant too.

Read, learn, enjoy.

Notes From An Exhibition

Patrick Gale’s Notes From An Exhibition is something like his 12th novel, perhaps he has written even more.

Based, as the author is too, in west Cornwall spanning the decades of the artist’s life, her dedicated husband, the traumas of her muse, her inner demons, and the children she is incapable of bringing up, who in spite of her generally do well.

The story is taken along with notes from her various exhibitions, right up until her death and the beauty of her somewhat crushed husband. This book doesn’t exactly proceed A Perfectly Good Gentleman, but we meet lots of the former’s characters in the latter, perhaps just by coincidence, perhaps as part of the¬†plot.

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Don’t rush this lovely book, take time to absorb the atmosphere, the awe and interaction with Dame Barbara Hepworth, the insistence on routine even when it utterly flies in the face of sense. The journeys in their old Morris Traveller, food, drink, lots of drink.

There is beauty here. Enjoy it.

The Old Man and The Sea

The Old Man and The Sea.

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This is the classic tale of struggle, and thought of by many as Ernest Hemingway’s finest novel.

If you are new to reading Hemingway this is a great place to start.

The language is spare. Not a word wasted.

There is beauty in the struggle, there is love, respect, anger and desperation.

It won the inveterate gambler, fighter, hunter the Nobel Prize for Literature and you can tell in every phrase that he shared the struggle, the loss.

I wonder what he would have made of today’s word of wall to wall coverage of every event, hyperbole at every twist and turn, politics a sham and the wonders of the web.

I can actually imagine Ernest being as addicted to casino online, just as he was to the bottle, the women and the weed. Though perhaps he’d consider that not manly enough for his approach to life.

I imagine he’d frown at football, scorn the drug police and scream abuse at pretty much every sportsman, save maybe the cage fighters.

The Old Man and The Sea. It’s a classic, a short read best tackled in one go.

Pour yourself a large bourbon, half a pint should do you about right, get a packet of strong smokes and settle down somewhere that you’re unlikely to be disturbed and start your journey into some of America’s finest literature.

The Horologicon. Mark Forsyth.

Now dear fellow.

Were you to pass the wee small hours in your lucubatory, supping away on a bottle of Scotland’s finest, then truly, when you awake from the deepest slumber sometime later that day you should expect to feel, at least somewhat, philogrobolised. Tis the curse of many a lycnobyte, but as Noel Coward, or some other witty drunk, was oft quoted as saying, he felt sorry for the sober, as they’d wake feeling as they did, but knowing that they day would not gradually get easier.

Take it upon yourself to invest in a copy of the Horologicon, by that most well read and clever fellow Mr Mark Forsyth, and you too could find yourself trying to envisage situations when you might employ some of the delightful less commonly encountered delights of the English language.

A book about words may not sound like the obvious source of entertainment for any but the most refined of gentlemen, but it may just surprise you and have you laughing out loud (which my young friends advise me is what they mean when they shower their texts with endearments) (so sad when I thought I’d won the heart of a sweet thing).

To almost anyone with the remotest interest in language I say – buy it, you’ll like it. And if you don’t I’ll buy it off you (and secretly strike you off).